LP Review: The Animal Years by Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter
The Animal Years
V2; 2005

My Rating: A+ (98/100)

Best Tracks: "Girl In The War", "Wolves", "Monster Ballads", "Lillian, Egypt", "Good Man", "In The Dark", "Thin Blue Flame"

Cosmic American Music to make Gram Parsons weep with jealousy.

TRACK NOTES

"Girl In The War" (5/5)

  • "The keys to the kingdom got locked inside the kingdom/And the angels fly around in there but we can’t see them"
  • Chills. So good.

"Wolves" (5/5)

  • This is my all-time favorite Josh Ritter song.
  • What more can I say?

"Monster Ballads" (5/5)

  • This is runner up for all-time favorite Josh Ritter song.
  • "Monster ballads and the stations of the cross" has to be one of the richest lyrical snippets I’ve ever heard. Just brilliant.
  • Good grief, there’s the chills again. You just have to hear this song. So amazing.

"Lillian, Egypt" (5/5)

  • Clever video for this one.
  • Love how he uses Mark Twain’s literary voice here.
  • This is the point where he officially sounded like a pro. Hello Starling was good, but this is galactic.
  • Love the piano solo.

"Idaho" (4/5)

  • Was it a misstep to make this vocals only? I don’t know. I go back and forth. In one sense, it makes for a nice interlude of sorts, esp. with the first four songs being as rich as a Snickers bar fried in chocolate butter.
  • That being said, I’d love to hear the original version, with the acoustic guitar a bit louder. I think it’s a better song than my score here.

"In the Dark" (5/5)

  • "They started looking for you/In the darker caves"

"One More Mouth" (5/5)

  • "All the other moths need light to circle round/You just fly around yourself"

"Good Man" (5/5)

  • Can I give this 6/5? So good.
  • In what evil mirror universe are we living where this song is not standard radio fare?

"Best for the Best" (5/5)

  • Beautiful and understated.

"Thin Blue Flame" (5/5)

  • "Allow me to demonstrate my epic awesomeness," he said.

"Here at the Right Time" (5/5)

  • Love the timbre of the piano on this one.

ALBUM NOTES

  • I’ve already said it here. This one is a classic, hands down, one of the best albums ever.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Songs (4.91/5)

LP Review: Hello Starling by Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter
Hello Starling
Signature; 2003

My Rating: B (73/100)

Best Tracks: "Bright Smile", "Kathleen", "You Don’t Make It Easy Babe", "Wings", "Snow Is Gone", "Bone of Song"

The sound of a man singing for the love of it.

TRACK NOTES

"Bright Smile" (4.5/5)

  • Right off the bat, it sounds like another huge leap forward.
  • Soft and beautiful, wistful and innocent.
  • Love that guitar line. It’s a daydream.

"Kathleen" (5/5)

  • Love this song.
  • “All the other girls here are stars/You are the northern lights”
  • However, something has always bothered me about the vocals, like the song should be in a different key to really get Josh’s voice right.
  • Regardless, great stuff.

"You Don’t Make It Easy Babe" (4.5/5)

  • Great song.
  • The live version found on a later EP is fantastic.
  • “Here I am standing at your window again…”

"Man Burning" (4/5)

"Rainslicker" (4/5)

  • Excellent arrangement.
  • This is lazy rainy day music.

"Wings" (4.5/5)

  • Amazing lyrics (one of his trademarks of course).
  • Love it when the piano tones in.

"California" (4/5)

  • "This song goes out to every waiter in Los Angeles."

"Snow Is Gone" (5/5)

  • One of his defining songs. Completely brilliant and joyful.
  • “I’m singing for the love of it/Have mercy on the man who sings to be adored…”
  • “Hello blackbird/Hello starling/Come on over/Be my darling!”

"Bone of Song" (4.5/5)

  • Another quiet and gorgeous song.
  • Love the fiddle playing "Auld Lang Syne" at the end.

"Baby That’s Not All" (4/5)

  • Gorgeous melody.
  • Sweet arrangement.
  • Not an amazing song, but the melody and arrangement carry it a long way.

"Bad Actress" (3.5/5)

  • Remarkably forgettable.
  • I think this one could have been left off to the improvement of the album.
  • After all, it would be pretty good as an outtake.

ALBUM NOTES

  • On Hello Starling, JR still sounds like he hasn’t into his own in terms of his voice and performance, but most of the songs are great nonetheless, and there’s an undeniable warmth and heart to his performances that wins you over.
  • Great lyrics, great melodies. In fact, the lyrics are the best thing about this record.
  • The loveliness, quite simply, abounds. Even some of the lesser known cuts like "Bone of Song", "Rainslicker", and "Baby That’s Not All", though understated, sound as fresh as the country rain.
  • Though he’s taken a turn for the more produced over the last few albums, I’d love to get a stripped down, bluegrass sort of record from Ritter. His melodies are strong enough to carry something like that through.
  • One thing that bothers me about this album is the production. It just sounds uneven (maybe it was supposed to sound live?).
  • Overall, portends of the great things to come.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Songs (4.32/5)